Civil War and the Transformation of International Law

Civil War and the Transformation of International Law

Professor Anne Orford
Spring 2019 reading group
W 5:00pm - 7:00pm in Lewis Room 301
1 classroom credit

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Whether, and if so under what conditions, foreign actors can lawfully engage with parties to a civil war continue to be pressing questions for international law and international relations. The intensity of recent debates about the legality of interventions in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine illustrates the urgency of these questions, and the difficulty of finding general principles to address them. This reading group will explore whether and how legal arguments for and against involvement in civil wars -- to promote particular political systems, guarantee regional order, protect civilians, defeat non-state terrorist groups, or secure economic investment -- have shaped foundational legal principles regulating the use of force, recognition, intervention, and investment protection, and challenged distinctions between inside and outside, civil and international, domestic and foreign, or war and peace. The group will read works from international law, history, and political theory to place legal debates within a broader jurisprudential and social context, and will explore the changing role of international law and international lawyers in framing and justifying interventions in the American Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, the former Yugoslavia, and Syria. We will consider the adequacy of the broad conceptual architecture that we have inherited to address such situations, and what might be emerging to take its place. Rather than treating the inability of law to remain 'above' the political battle as a problem, we will explore whether international lawyers can develop a foundation for contemporary public debates about the legality of force and intervention that takes conflicts over empirical evidence and normative arguments, or facts and values, seriously.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: January 30, February 13 and 27, March 13, and April 3 and 17.

Subject Areas: International, Comparative & Foreign Law, Legal & Political Theory, Constitutional Law & Civil Rights